Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Paella


This simple chicken, chorizo and prawn paella to me is summer in a bowl. With a squeeze of lemon juice over the top and the lovely summery weather we've had of late, you can sit outside and tuck in just imagining being on your hols somewhere far away. It's super easy to make, filling, and you can easily tweak it to put your own personal spin on a classic Spanish dish.

I consulted a couple of recipe books to check out the recommended cooking method for paella, but with regards to the contents I freestyled and aimed for what I've tried and loved before when other people have made this for me. And I must say the result was a pretty good paella!

The whole dish takes about 45 mins from start to end, and the beauty is that unlike a risotto there's no need to stand over it and stir. What's not to love about that?!

Serves 6.

Ingredients

200g chorizo, sliced
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced
3 large chicken breasts, diced
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
500g paella/arborio rice 
2 litres chicken stock
2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin 
250g cooked peeled king prawns
Lemon wedges

Method

1. In a large pan, begin to dry fry the chorizo until it begins to release its oil. Then throw in the onion and garlic, stir, an allow this to cook for 2-3 mins.


2. Add the chicken breast and pepper, stir well and cook for a further 5 mins on a medium heat or until the chicken has almost cooked.


3. Pour in the rice and stir well until it is coated.


Then add the chicken stock and all the spices and stir well.


4. Bring the pan to the boil and then lower the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, then stir in the prawns adding a little more water if needed, and simmer for 10 more minutes.


5. Serve in big bowls with wedges of lemon for squeezing. 



This recipe can be adapted in so many ways. Mussels, squid, and a sprinkle of peas can be added when the prawns go in, and the chicken and chorizo can easily be omitted to make a seafood paella if you are a pescatarian.

Paella all round I say!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Toad in the Hole


After getting my hands on a box of eggs laid by our chickens at home in Lincolnshire I was very excited to make something extra special with them. Home laid eggs definitely taste better, so they really take a good old fashioned Toad in the Hole up a notch. 

This recipe is my own, and it turned out great. It was meant to feed two very hungry people, but really it serves three. Or two with leftovers for one tasty meal the next day. Anyway it's easy to double (and any leftover batter can be made in to pancakes!)

It takes approximately an hour from start to plate.

Ingredients

6 large good quality sausages 
A few glugs of olive oil


For the batter:
100g plain flour
150ml milk
50ml water 
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190c. Prick the sausages and spread evenly in a deep baking tray. Put in the oven to start them off while you're making the batter

2. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add one egg, followed by a little milk, and mix thoroughly. Keep going until all the milk and water has been incorporated, so you have a smooth, runny mixture. Set aside for now. 

3. Take the sausages out of the oven after 20 minutes and pop them on a plate. They should have released a tiny bit of fat, but add a couple of lugs of olive oil. Then turn the oven up to 240c and put the oil back in for 5 minutes. The oil needs to get really hot. 


4. Whisk the batter for 3-4 minutes with a hand whisk, until the mixture has loads of tiny bubbles on the top. This is crucial to make the batter rise. 


5. Now, put the sausages back in the tray and pour the mixture over them.


Turn the oven down to 220c. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the batter is well risen and golden brown. 


Serve with your choice of veg and plenty of gravy. I had sweetcorn, carrots and mash with chives. 

Absolute perfection!



Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Summer Manicure


I tried something new with my nails the other day. I gave myself a French manicure with a funky twist. I just love it and I think it's really bright and perfect for summer.


I neatnened up my nails by filing them and rubbing in some cuticle cream. Then all I did to create this look was paint 2 coats of my turquoise Barry M free hand on the whites of my nails, and then I topped it off with some Sally Hansen clear varnish to add shine and stop it from chipping. 


It's a really pretty and fresh look; I discovered this a week ago and I've redone it twice since. I have a feeling this will be one all my favourite go to nail looks!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Thrifty Shopping

Sadly this is the last post related to when my Mum came to visit. We squeezed a lot in to the three and a half days she was down but looking back over the photos and writing my blog posts about it really confirms it. We did loads and had an amazing time and I wish I could have it all over again! But no fear because I'm heading home in a few days for a couple of weeks so I get to see he and the rest of my family very soon, which I'm really looking forward to. 

Her visit has also made me a very good blogger this week, this is the fifth day in a row I've posted! I've loved looking back over our adventures, and after speaking about shopping antics an awful lot over the last four days it's about time I showed you my acquisitions. 

As some of you may know I'm a big charity shop fan; they are the right place to go if you want to pick up something a bit different for not too much money, and all the proceeds go to a good cause of course. Here's what I bought this time, all in different shops.


I bought a gorgeous little mint green bowl, which will be perfect for baking or having a big bowl of porridge. Or putting crisps in. Basically anything! 

And then I randomly found a milk or cream jug in a matching shade of green. I recently bought a cafetiere and I thought it'd be really cute to use this for my milk. 

Then there's the books. Charity shops are great places to stock up on books, especially in university towns because students often use them for one module and then chuck them. I have never ever read Nineteen Eighty-Four (!) or The Bell Jar so I thought I'd invest. Admittedly they're not the most jolly of tales but in the interest of educating myself I'm going to give them a whirl.



I decided to make this addition to this post at the last minute. I confess it's not a charity shop or dress agency purchase but it is from my favourite independent Canterbury boutique Angels, and I really really wanted to show it off. Let me introduce you to my new clutch bag! I've even hunting for one of these bags for ages. My criteria was pretty simple: clutch style, big enough to fit my bits and pieces in, and a colour that would go with everything (that wasn't black).

This is my dream bag! It's a gorgeous light beige colour, soft fake leather material with gold edging, and it's got a zip and a popper to keep the contents secure. It was just over £20 which I think is a bargain considering how much wear I'm going to get out of it. I just love it so much and can't wait until I take it for it's first trip out!

Thank you for reading my post :) 
Happy Friday everybody!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Cafe des Amis


I've really been loving Mexican food in 2014. I've tried loads of different places and I've been cooking up my own creations at home (my enchiladas are pretty good if I say do say so myself). But when I'm out to eat 99.9 times out of 100 I will get the fajitas. It's the classic Mexican restaurant dish and I love all the different accompaniments and combinations you can have and create for yourself. 


Cafe des Amis is a place I'd heard quite a lot about, and all very good things at that. They do fajitas to share and I loved te idea of the platter ring of condiments and toppings they put on your table for you and your fajita compadre to dive in to. 

I almost didn't book a table, but I had been passing by by chance the day before and decided to pop in. And thank goodness I did book! Turns out Saturday nights are pretty busy at Cafe des (who'da thought?!) and they could only squeeze us in at 6pm or 9pm. So of course I went for 9 to give us more shopping time in the day. The lesson here is that if you want a table at Cafe des Amis (or anywhere else on a Friday or Saturday night) it's always best to book.

I desperately wanted to try the restaurant out for myself. My mum is a really good cook but fajitas aren't usually the sort of thing she would have at home because my dad and grandma prefer more classic one pot dishes, so it made perfect sense to try it with her!



The restaurant has a really funky vibe to it, lots of modern fiesta-ey colours like orange and turquoise; friendly waiters dressed very casually greet you with a big smile at the door and the atmosphere is nice and relaxed. 

We love a candle and were happy when a fresh one was placed and lit on our table on arrival. A smiley waitress guided us to our table right by the window, and soon came back to take our drinks orders. Lager for mum and Mexican cider for me. We skipped the starters and went straight in for the main, after fish and chipping earlier on. We were asked if we needed longer to decide what to have, but we already knew we wanted to try their chicken fajitas to share. Well, I did, mum left the ordering up to me.

We chatted happily and watched people on their way in to town, and cars going by in the warm evening air. After about 15 minutes the food showed up. And so did the platter of toppings and extras. 



How amazing does it all look?



The chicken was well seasoned and juicy, and laid on a bed of sautéed peppers and onions. Sometimes these can be a bit greasy but they weren't at all. The wraps were warmed nicely and we got 4 each.





The condiment ring was awesome, I loved the idea. There was fresh guacamole, salsa, salad, jalapeños, sour cream, cheese, and refried beans which I hadn't tried before but which were awesome! They topped you up if you ran out of anything, which was brilliant. We ended up getting refills of sour cream and beans, which were delivered nice and quickly. 

The only thing I would say is there wasn't all that much chicken for 2 people. I don't know whether I am being picky but I would've expected a little more meat for the price we paid. However, we had eaten well during the day so it's a good job we weren't ravenous. A big bonus was the condiments and they kept us satisfied. 

All in all Cafe des Amis was rather lovely and I would definitely return. It isn't the cheapest place for fajitas so it is more of a special occasion/treat kind of place, but the food was very tasty and well cooked. 

Ciao for now, amigos!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Afternoon in Whitstable


On Saturday we decided to attack Canterbury from a different angle and do the 'shop' shops (as opposed to the charity shops) because we just completely ran out of time to do the main ones. 

Thankfully the rain had stopped after Friday's washout and had mum and I had a lovely morning of browsing and meandering Canterbury's little streets. 

We did the same as we did on Friday and had coffees and almond croissants at Cafe St Pierre on the high street for breakfast to start our day off right. It's a cute Frenchified place right down the hill from my uni near the Westgate Tower, and their almond croissants are amazing! I have walked past dozens of times but until this weekend I had never been in. But I can safely say it's lovely and relaxed and perfect for what we wanted, something light and good coffees. I highly recommend it there.

After a few hours of shopping we had ticked off all the ones we wanted to look in and our tummies were starting to growl, so we headed to Whitstable to search for some lunch.

Because it was a Saturday it was a bit busy so we had to park at the top of the hill and use the Park and Ride. This actually turned out to be a good option instead of driving round for ages and not finding a place to park. We chatted to the friendly stewards until the bus arrived, and then trundled into Whitstable town centre down the main street.

By this time the sun had peeked through and loads of people were milling around - I love seasidey towns because everything is all seaside-themed and pretty! Whitstable is a perfect example of this; lots of artists are inspired by places like this so there are always lots of nice white-washed art galleries to look inside. 

We rode to the end of the route and got off at the harbour end in search of lunch spots. 



After a quick look around we decided to get in the queue at Wee Willie Winkle's. There was a long line out of the door, but that's always a good sign really. It took about 20 minutes to have our turn but eventually we got our cod and chips and sat down to tuck in.



Is there anything nicer than fish and chips by the seaside?


After we had finished our long leisurely lunch we spent the rest of the day meandering back up the main street, popping in and out of shops and just enjoying the sunshine. We both said how restrained we had been on the whole and we could have spent a lot more, but the one or two things I bought I really really love. 

Like I said in my last post, keep your eyes peeled for my post of what I bought :)

Thanks for reading!



Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Movie Night and Bed Picnic

My Mum is the perfect shopping buddy. She has good taste, an eye for a bargain and isn't afraid to treat herself to something really lovely every now and again. I can also trust her advice completely, on numerous occasions over the years she has tactfully guided me away from something that I would look a bit silly in. All in all we are a good partnership and a shopping force to be reckoned with. 

She was the one who showed me that charity shops and dress agencies are treasure troves to be plundered, and I made a number of brilliant CS purchases that I can't wait to share with you! 

So after a lovely (albeit wet) all day shopping sesh in Canterbury and Faversham, stopping by my boyfriend's house to see him and his family, have a cup of tea and see their bees, we swung by Waitrose to stock up on supplies. 

There's something special about Waitrose food. I get so excited to go and its kind of become a me and Mum thing, it's more fun with her so I normally save myself until we can go together. This might sound a bit weird but it's true :)

The only thing on the cards after a marathon shopping day was to climb in to our pjs, rustle up a bed picnic and watch a film. 



All the ingredients required to make a lovely big jug of Pimms to drink!



Look at that spread. I could eat this again right now just looking at it! I can't put in to words how yummy this pizza was - it's the feta cheese and caramelised onion pizza. Waitrose were doing this really good offer where you get a choice of a main (I chose this pizza) and 2 sides for £6! (I picked the dips and a mixed bean salad too which I ate for a tasty lunch). This is such a bargain considering that individually the pizza was over £4. If you are going to Waitrose in the near future I very much recommend taking advantage of this offer. 

Then we got some Kettle crisps (mozzarella and pesto flavour, they're really good), some dips and a simple side salad. 



So easy and so so tasty.

We tucked in to our feast cross-legged and watched Anchorman 2, which we both loved. 

The perfect Friday night in!


Monday, 14 July 2014

Girls' Night Out

My mum came to visit me this weekend for 3 days of shopping, relaxing and catching up with each other. She arrived mid-way through Thursday afternoon and I shut up my books and dissertation work for a much needed break with one of my most favourite people. She arrived with a present for me - eggs from our chickens at home! I really miss having lots of fresh eggs so this was a massive treat! 

After a quick house tour (which didn't take long) we sat together on my bed and polished off the rest of the homemade banana bread over coffee and gossip. 

After chatting away for a good few hours we were ready to head down to the centre of Canterbury for some pre-dinner drinks. We caught the bus down from my Uni and headed to a bar called The Cuban for cocktails.


It's a tapas bar during the day, a cocktail bar in the evening and a nightclub at night. We arrived just before 7 to take full advantage of the 2 for 1 cocktail offer. After deliberating over the extensive menu Mum went for her favourite and so did I. Margherita for her and a Piña Colada for me.





I'd heard a lot about The Cuban in all its nightclubby glory, but not an awful lot about what it's like for cocktails. It was modern, had a really laid back atmosphere with a great choice of drinks and friendly staff. The really good drink offer sweetened the deal and we stuck around for more, to try out the rest of the menu for research purposes of course.


Me and my gorgeous Mum.


Next it was time to go for some food. There was only one place I had in mind for a special reunion dinner: La Trappiste. I've been before a number of times but every single time has been a winner. 

It's a Belgian restaurant which does the most amazing mussels I've ever eaten. No prizes for guessing what me and Mum both had!

We went on a Thursday night which was a little less busy than a weekend, but it's still always best to book. We were shown to our table by a very friendly waitress an decided what to have to start. Mixed olives and garlic bread with cheese was quickly delivered, along with our pre-dinner drinks. 

And then our wine turned up. Mum didn't pretend to do the wine-tasting routine, thankfully! Our waitress looked equally as relieved as me.


The starters were perfect as always, and kept us going while we were waiting for our main. We chatted happily and Mum filled me in on all the things she's done to the house since I've been away. I'm really looking forward to going home in a couple of weeks to see and to spend some time with everyone. I'm particularly looking forward to having a cuddle with my Grandma, my Dad and Bith the cat. 

Then the moules arrived. We both ordered the Classic moules, with a cream and white wine sauce. It comes with beautiful thick bread to mop up the sauce but we both ordered a side of frites too, of course.  


Simply divine. 


The only complicated bit is the extracting process. It takes a moment to get back in to it but once you've opened one, you can use the shell of one of them as a pincer to get the others out. It's a clever method taught to be by my uncle Frank, who is a genius when it comes to seafood preparation and cookery. 


So delicious! We skipped dessert and went home to crack open the Pimms and watch Anchorman 2. 

I had such a wonderful night in the best of company and beautiful surroundings. Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of what we got up to together!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Banana Bread


Today I'm taking it back to basics with a recipe for what I believes makes the perfect banana bread. This is a classic and it's loved by banana lovers and haters everywhere. Neither me or my boyfriend really like bananas but he actually asked if we could make this together! Overripe 'nanas are best to use in this recipe and as neither of us eat them we bought 2 just to let them go black. 

This recipe is taken from Mary Berry's Baking Bible and it hits the spot every time. So to make perfect banana bread you will need...

Ingredients

100g/3.5 oz softened Unsalted Butter or Stork
175g/6oz Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
2 Ripe Bananas (mashed)
225g/8oz Self Raising Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
2 tbsp Milk
Sprinkle of Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c/Fan 160c/Gas 4
2. Lightly grease a 2lb loaf tin (standard loaf tin) and line with baking parchment
3. Cream together the butter and sugar. 


Then gradually incorporate one egg followed by a bit of flour, until it is all mixed in and you have a smooth batter.


4. Mix in the banana, milk, baking powder and a spinkling of spices.



And blend well until it looks something like this.


5. Spoon the mixture in to the tin and level the surface. 


6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 1 hour, until well risen and golden brown. A skewer inserted in to the middle should come out clean when inserted in to the centre when the loaf is ready. 

7. Leave to cool slightly, then turn out on to a wire cooling rack and peel the parchment away.


This is so easy to make and so yummy. My boyfriend and I managed to polish this off between us in one day! If I know I'm having visitors I love to rustle one of these up to have with a nice cup of tea.